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NJ Lawmakers Expected To Approve Plan To Raise State's Gas Tax By 23 Cents

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey lawmakers will vote Friday on a plan to raise the state's gas tax by 23 cents a gallon.

The vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but Senate President Steve Sweeney said lawmakers will revisit the vote Friday.

"I'm not worried about what's going on right now. We have a critical need to fund our transportation trust fund," Sweeney said. "It's been underfunded for quite some time."

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto confirmed the Assembly will also consider the agreement reached between leaders and Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Friday as well.

If passed, the agreement would raise New Jersey's gas tax -- the second-lowest in the nation -- from 14.5 cents to 37.5 cents a gallon.

The proposal is expected to pass, but many New Jersey drivers aren't happy about having to pay more at the pump.

It is the first gas tax increase for the state in 28 years, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported.

Lawmakers hastily reached an agreement with Governor Chris Christie last Friday, a day after the deadly train crash in Hoboken.

The money from the tax is to be used to help refill the Garden State's depleted transportation fund.

"I'm happy to be a governor now who is going to be able to say that we have responsibly financed for a long period of time, the longest period the state will ever see," Christie said.  

Over the summer, Christie ordered a shut down of the state's non-essential transportation projects after failing to reach a deal with the Democrats.

In exchange for the hike, New Jersey's sales tax will be cut by three-eights of a percent. There will also be a phase-out of the estate tax and tax credits for the working poor and veterans. The deal would eventually remove $1.4 billion from New Jersey's annual revenue base, WBCS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"We are going to have no income tax whatsoever on senior citizen income -- retirement accounts, Keoughs, IRAs, pensions. We got that in the bill. That's a big deal," Assemblyman Jon Bramnick said.

The bill was posted as an emergency vote, so no public hearings were held on the matter, CBS2's Christine Sloan reported.

"They are trying to rush it through without a public hearing or transparency because they don't want the pubic to find out how bad a deal this really is," Jeff Tittel with the Sierra Club told Sloan.

Some drivers say the impact will take a toll on their wallets.

"We moved to Jersey for the cheap gas," resident Twan Johnson said.

"They know Jersey is the cheapest place to get gas, so why would it go up?" Tara Barnes, of East Orange said.

"The way jobs are going and everything, people are going to start struggling to pay the gas," Edwin Duran, of Trenton said.

It's not only the people behind the wheel who will feel the effects. If less people fill up in New Jersey, that means less sales at gas stations.

"We depend on tips," Syed Ali, a gas station attendant and father of two, said. So if we don't make tips, it's nothing here."

But some in the construction industry say they see the gas tax as a good thing.

"I was working and got laid off because the projects shut down," Kelly Ruggieri said.

Sal Risalvato, head of the New Jersey Gasoline Association, said there's no question the state's transportation infrastructure needs major work, but consumers will see a clear ripple effect because of the gas tax hike. 

"It is inevitable for the price of groceries and all consumer goods to rise because of this gas tax increase," Risalvato said.

AAA analysts say the gas tax will cost an additional $170 a year for New Jersey drivers.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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